Aeon Flux (2005)

Posted By: denisbul
Aeon Flux (2005)

Aeon Flux (2005)
Audio: English | Subtitles: English, Spanish
DVD5 | ISO | 01:32:46 | NTSC 16:9 (720x480) | 25 fps | AC3 5.1 @ 448 kbps | 4.35 Gb
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | USA

IMDB
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand and Sophie Okonedo

400 years in the future, set in the year 2415, Aeon Flux is a mysterious assassin. Four centuries after a virus nearly annihilated the human race, leaving only five million survivors in a utopian city called Bregna. Aeon is struggling to destroy the Goodchild regime led by its namesake, Trevor Goodchild, the ruler of Bregna and a descendant of the man who found a cure for the deadly virus. As instructed by the Handler, Aeon is assigned to assassinate Goodchild, but there are deeper secrets to be discovered, and conspiracies to be foiled.

Aeon Flux (2005)

Directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) and loosely based on the cult animated series created by Peter Chung (it aired on MTV in 1991 and 1992 as part of MTV's Liquid Television program and in 1995 as 10 standalone half-hour episodes), Aeon Flux takes Chung's slim premise and shallow characters, an antiseptic future dystopia, a despot, rebels, and a fetish-wearing mercenary/assassin named Aeon Flux, and attempts to build out a full-length feature film around Charlize Theron's physical charms, high-end visual effects, and “PG-13” action-oriented sequences. Although Aeon Flux's positives include strong visuals and one or two attention-grabbing set pieces, ultimately a lackluster, muddled screenplay, bland performances, and flat, unengaging characters, make Aeon Flux a disappointing viewing experience. Aeon Flux may not be as awful as many critics have argued (or as bad as Paramount executives presumed when they decided against holding advance screenings for the press), but it's also so stunningly mediocre that viewers will be hard pressed to remember anything beyond the visuals moments after they've exited the movie theater.

Aeon Flux (2005)

As Aeon Flux opens, white type on black backgrounds provides key exposition as to setting, premise and time period. In 2011, a worldwide epidemic has wiped out all but 1% of the human population. That 1% has survived thanks to the extraordinary efforts of a scientist named Goodchild. Four hundred years later, the five-million descendants of the survivors live in a walled city-state, Bregna. Nature has taken over the rest of the world. Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas), a descendant of the first Goodchild, rules over Bregna with the help of his younger brother, Oren (Jonny Lee Miller), and an advisory council. Bregna is a classic (or, if you prefer, cliched) dystopia, without the basic freedoms of expression, dissent, or association present in democratic societies. Physical wants and desires are met, while the Bregnans' emotional and spiritual lives languish under stifling autocratic rule. To keep them in control, the Bregnans are constantly reminded of their good fortune by a sky-ship that drifts lazily over the city: the sky-ship is a memorial to the billions killed by the epidemic.

Aeon Flux (2005)

Not surprisingly, a resistance movement has formed to oppose and hopefully terminate the Goodchilds' rule. The rebels call themselves Monicans. One Monican in particular, Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron), is a highly trained assassin. She receives orders via a pill that allows her to communicate telepathically with her Handler (Frances McDormand). After Aeon embarks on a preliminary mission to disrupt the regime's surveillance system (it succeeds), the Handler informs Aeon that the time has come to overturn the Goodchild regime and assassinate Trevor. Aeon asks for and receives the assistance of another operative, Sithandra (Sophie Okonedo). Sithandra has undergone surgical modification that apparently makes her invaluable: she has an additional set of hands for feet. Before she goes on the potentially fatal mission, Aeon meets her younger sister, Una (Amelia Warner), at a local market. Una knows about Aeon's involvement with the Monicans, but disapproves of the Monicans' methods, prefers a less confrontational method in resisting the government (what that entails is never specified).

Aeon Flux (2005)

In short order, Aeon suffers a devastating personal reversal, further solidifying her desire to assassinate Trevor Goodchild (her motives now understandably include revenge). With the help of the Handler and Sithandra, Aeon embarks on the mission. Trevor has been shuttled to a super-secret, heavily guarded conference, but as Aeon gets closer to Trevor, a hidden connection surfaces between Aeon and Trevor, forcing Aeon to question her identity, the resistance movement, and the mission. As Trevor's “true” motives for his autocratic rule reveal themselves, he also suffers a major setback, followed by multiple revelations (all of them foreseeable), and multiple action sequences, with the ostensible climax occurring during a seemingly casual walk across a grassy park followed by an explosive, if anti-climactic, finale above Bregna.

Aeon Flux (2005)

Aeon Flux's multiple problems can be traced back to the uninspired screenplay written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. The clumsy exposition delivered by title cards and Aeon Flux's voice over narration is the first major indication that all is not right with Aeon Flux. We're given information that should have been delivered dramatically, via dialogue, character interaction, and character choice, rather than spoon-fed to us. For example, we are simply informed (rather than shown) that Aeon Flux is a highly trained assassin/operative aligned with the resistance, and that the Monicans want to overturn Trevor's autocratic rule. Aeon Flux would have been better served by showing us more of Trevor's misrule in action, with Aeon slowly, if inexorably drawn into the resistance movement and its labyrinthine machinations. Instead, all or most of that occurs offscreen, before Aeon Flux has even begun. In addition, the major revelation about the Bregnans is the second science-fiction/action/adventure film in the last six months to use the same idea (and it's not particularly original to begin with). Alas, viewers will be understandably unfazed when Aeon discovers what they've suspected all along.

Aeon Flux (2005)

The problems continue on the level of character and character conflict. As far as cliched dystopias go, there's a ruthless, "ends justify the means" autocrat thrown into the mix, but, to quote another cliche, "appearances can be deceiving.” Audiences will guess his identity seconds after his introduction. You only have to look at the power dynamics between two of the major characters (i.e., one apparently dominant, the other submissive, and the conflict that dynamic automatically engenders) to guess the identity of the "real" villain. He (or she) wants to preserve the status quo at whatever cost, including violent suppression of real or perceived enemies. Aeon Flux's screenplay is too schematic to allow for character shading or ambiguity. And for a film supposedly set in a self-enclosed, bustling city of five million, at most we see a few dozen Bregnans milling around the city's carefully manicured public parks or on their way to and from work (presuming work hasn't been abolished in this future city-state, but it's a question that remains unasked and, therefore, unanswered).

Aeon Flux (2005)

As the director, Karyn Kusama certainly has to shoulder some of the blame for Aeon Flux's mediocrity, but with underwritten characters and an uninspired screenplay, it's hard to imagine a more experienced director making a better film. Kusama, however, obtained only shallow, listless performances from her actors, including Oscar-winner Charlize Theron. Peter Chung's animated series, however, wouldn't have been much help to Kusama or the screenwriters. Although Chung's shorts were strikingly, sometimes oddly, beautiful eye candy, they also contained simple, mission-oriented storylines (when they made sense, that is) better suited to a video-game adaptation than to a feature-length film, where paying audiences understandably expect more, even from presumably standard Hollywood fare.

Aeon Flux (2005)

Kusama does direct several set pieces with stylish flair, but most occur early in the film. Aeon Flux's first mission into the heart of Bregna's surveillance system (an underground chamber, where images and dialogue float across a liquid-like substance), with Aeon descending into and out of a circle of light, is particularly impressive, as is Aeon's later flight across circular openings (Kusama positions the camera looking up at Aeon as she leaps across the openings), and still later, the best fight scene in the film, with Aeon taking on Trevor's security chief, Freya (Caroline Chikezie), as they teleport between Trevor's library and his laboratory. The climactic gun battle against the villain's forces, however, reverts back to the type of generic action scenes we've seen hundreds of times before, and in better written films.

Aeon Flux (2005)

Ultimately, Aeon Flux's few positives aren't enough to recommend it to anyone except die-hard science-fiction/action fans or, possibly, fans of the original animated series (but even then, it's likely fans of the series will be disappointed with Kusama's interpretation of the source material). Others semi-interested in the setting, the modernist production design (stone slabs arranged in geometric patterns are the Bregnan norm), the costume design (gray or muted for Bregna's rulers, more colorful for the general populace), occasionally imaginative visuals, or Charlize Theron should probably wait until Aeon Flux makes its inevitable debut on DVD in a few, short months.

Reviewed by Mel Valentin (Movie-Vault)
Aeon Flux (2005)

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